TRUMP’S DISASTER AT THE UNITED NATIONS: NEVER A MORE THREATENING SPEECH

By

Harry C. Blaney III

If necessary “we will have no choice but totally destroy North Korea.” Donald Trump at the UNGA

I am ashamed as an American citizen of the speech that Donald trump made to the UN on Tuesday. It was threatening, it was contradictory, rude, and it insulted the whole purpose of the United Nations and the common goal of seeking peace and human rights.

It showed America as a selfish, ignorant, and offensive nation rather than the “the leader of the free world.” Trump diminished our nation and did NOT make our nation greater.

The threat by Donald Trump that he would “totally destroy North Korea” was one of the most stupid and dangerous statements ever to emulate from an American Preside not just at the UN General Assembly but ever. It was filled with public unnecessary threats, indifference to others, even advocating for others the narrow nationalistic and isolationist policies he thinks works for him to others as if that kind of stance would make our world more safe and prosperous. It makes our world clearly less safe and more dangerous as the US urges other to be selfish and nationalistic as their only main concern. It does not get them to act in the larger interest.

The UN Trump speech was the largest verbal disaster I have ever known in my many decades as a professional in foreign affairs. His words makes America appear selfish, nationalistic, and to be feared. It was through and through disingenuous on many levels.

Further it was hypocritical as well, with its many contradictions. Like supporting human rights when we (Trump) supports the likes of brutal dictators in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Poland, Philippines, etc. All along never saying what is happening in Russia or what they did in Ukraine and Syria. Russian actions undermining democracy and unity in America and Europe yet were only vaguely alluded to. His moves to leave the Iran deal and the Paris climate change accord show even more his indifference to our global threats. Selfishness has not been a core American value and contrary to our values is inciting others to be equally selfish and self-centered. This ends only in war, conflict and “beggar my neighbor “ policies worldwide. It encourages genocide, it promotes authoritarian nationalism which is dangerous to our nation and other democracies.

It was for me the a sad moment seeing a person, our so-called president, undemanding all of our values, traditions, insulting the sacrifices of Americans who died to protect our nation and freedom worldwide. It was an insult to our constitution’s proclamation on universal equality liberty, and human rights.

One of the strange revelations is the very weak even often apologetic reviews the Trump UN speech has received from much of the mainline press, including op-eds, and editorials. There are exceptions, but one of the strangest is that of David Ignatius of the Washington Post entitled “A Welcome Flirtation with the U.N.” that almost was overflowing with his praise of the speech for its so called more moderate tone and the fluffy and empty and contradictory platitudes that it contained. He did helpfully cite some contradictions in the talk. He however downplayed the Trump threats and the stupid North Korea nuclear “war play” with language that did not help American goals. Did it help to call Kim “Rocket Man” when one day we may need to sit down together to save off catastrophe?

Trump was like a bully on the playing field trying to intimidate his opponent, in this case Kim Jong Un, to react with a crazy attack to perhaps justify war with the NK? There is little doubt in my mind that he was sassing on Kim without concern for the outcome and to further undermine ideas of a diplomatic solution. (I hope I am wrong and thought his words would help make a “deal.”) The result was predictable with Kim and his people sassing him back saying Trump was a dog barking.

The larger problem was neither Trump nor Kim seem able to pay the cooperative diplomatic game of mutual “win-win,” but with the daily cry in NK that America will attack is reinforced now by Trump’s “totally destroy North Korea.” We now can only hope both will see the self-destruction cliff before them embodied in their words and threats. I have never in over four decades of foreign policy work and following presidential speeches and helping to shape some, such crude and foolish words uttered by a president. Already there is some effort by the concerned nations to try to walk back this confrontational stances by both sides.

The contrast finally was the tone of such leaders as French president Macron who did not talk of nationalism but of global cooperation and integration to address the worlds ills. We have a very serious problem of many high risks and we need not add to them but solve them and this speech only set that goal back.

We welcome your comments!!

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AFGHANISTAN: NOW TRUMP’S WAR: A QUAGMIRE, STILL WITHOUT AN END GAME STRATEGY

By,

Harry C. Blaney III

Trump Quote: “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”

Once again we are entering a merciless mess in Afghanistan led by a man that has not the faintest idea of what he is doing other than sending added, yet unknown numbers, of American armed forces into conflict without even a true strategy or concept of making Afghanistan itself safe and having a chance to recover security and stability.

And by cutting out any “nation building” (that is support the civilian sector and giving its people hope for jobs, education, security and a better decent life), a purely military escalation is likely domed from the start.  And sadly this will be at the cost of many additional American, allied, and civilian lives.

Other than threats and platitudes against the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan for their seen failures which we have tried and tried again to correct and change, Trump offered no new hopeful approaches. Trump remains ignorant of the complexity and the deep ingrained habits of corruption, loyalty to tribes, fear of retribution, etc. Not least, also unaddressed is the embedded drug trafficking including the widespread growing of poppies which all sides greatly benefit from not least the terrorists, for which there is no sign we have any new effective solutions. Even if we had it would likely take decades and much resources to make the necessary changes on the ground even if the Afghan government were to become more honest and effective.

It has been 16 years of American war and massive costs under three administrations and we were not able to make right that poor and beleaguered nation burdened with conflict. Does any one think Trump, at his worst unbelievable behavior (note support for racists and the Phoenix unhinged diatribe today), now has the answer? Clearly, he has no different innovative ideas how to make peace in Afghanistan. And even worse, he has gutted our diplomatic capacity which might have helped towards the serious negotiations towards peaceful or less conflict solutions. Trump even had the temerity to say: “In the end we will win.”

He clearly has no end game other than killing the ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeda with an undetermined number of thousands of American troops. Having lived through and watched each administration grapple unsuccessfully with Afghanistan. Now even with the support of the military, clearly now neither the military nor Trump have any idea of a truly new approach. In fact, Trump’s approach is almost exactly what each previous administration tied from time to time and found wanting in any lasting success.

There was not a single sign that Trump or his advisors had better newer answers. Most troubling was his simplistic and even quixotic views on defeating terrorism. He lacks any interest even in proving the people of Afghanistan peace and true stability. There was perhaps another game plan but not to bring peace or security. That is rather simply the idea of saving his administration by becoming a “war president” and thus un-impeccable and un-touchable and diverting attention from the Trump-Putin investigation.

One fact which was not mentioned was the reality that these terrorist groups have learned to spread their activities to other at risk nations and also to regions like Europe, Asia and North America. Killing them in one country is only likely to see them spring up in others, perhaps with even more dangerous outcomes. All this threatened killing brings increased anger and haltered that are at the cause of their strength. Only indeed if we had a effective true strategy against the fundamental sources of terrorism and an effective “nation building” strategy, that could be fully carried implemented, we might address the critical reasons for the spread of terrorism and violence and reduce its impact.

We welcome your comments!!

 

MORE ON THE TRUMP SYRIAN MISSILE STRIKES AND BEYOND & WEIGHING RISKS.

MORE ON THE TRUMP SYRIAN MISSILE STRIKES AND BEYOND & WEIGHING RISKS.

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Already there have been many comments on the impact of the missiles strikes and discussions of their implication and what they may mean going forward. The simple truth is that none of us know what risks may lurk ahead not even Trump, nor Putin, nor Assad. Trump has not indicated much in the way of his real aims and less about what hand he will play. Many bet he has no plan and others have surmised strategies from the more likely to the ridiculous. The one thing I think is true is that the old Trump we have seen is NOT a new Trump of a “grand sophisticate strategist.” I doubt he has little but a fuzze and probably ill-informed idea of what he must now do and what the future risks are.

Already after the initial Trump strikes, Syrian government warplanes were back bombing the same site that was hit by the sarin chemicals. And as sited in the Washington Post (4/9/17), reportedly there were more strikes also against civilians at Khan Sheikhoun, where Tuesday 68 people had been killed. Assad planes are still active in brutal killings. Thus nothing much has changed for the people as a result.

Not least of concern is the reaction of Putin to these actions and dangers of mistakes on both sides. Our larger approach with Russia must be an integral element of our strategy.

Trump’s national security team is about the worst I have seen in 50 years. Leaving aside the fractious White House still dominated by Alt-Right ideologists, one glaring weakness is the selection of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State without any previous knowledge or experience in foreign policy and national security areas. He is like a lost soul out of his depth. Worst he won’t talk to or listen to experienced hands at State according to reports. Part of that may be that he knows he may have to fire many of them to meet the demands of his harsh circus ring boss who has a desire to ensure that foreign affairs belongs exclusively in the White House and as a fiefdom of an incompetent family.  Thus we see the Trump inspired 30% cut in State’s budget.

Trump said his motivation for the strikes were humanitarian for saving of lives, but his proposed State and USAID budget cuts will result in millions of added deaths including women and children in poor and conflict ridden nations around the world. Is that an act of a real “humanitarian?”

The results on the policy side of this action many end with no serious negotiations and with no strategic game plan behind them. This results in no long-term thinking or seeking peaceful win-win solutions. It seems the major fault is lack of respect of the tools of deep analysis and the concern and understanding of risks as well as end-game benefits for peace by Trump. That is dangerous for America and the world.

He has now made a “big bet” with a rather limited strike in Syria. He warned the Russians ahead which meant that the Assad air force had some kind of advanced warning. The damage done to the airfield and planes were modest in the extreme. He did not destroy all their planes and they can continue the killing of innocent civilians with what seems impunity with the protection of Russian arms. Did Trump foresee that outcome or even desire it?

The questions that many of us are asking is: given the military strategists have likely already developed complex scenarios for potential contingencies, has Trump given any consideration to both their analysis or recommendations or recognized the risks they may present? Another question is he even asking what options or problems they might  have over looked. And does he have people around him with deep knowledge that can ask the right questions, note the pitfalls, weaknesses, and provide him with additional realistic options?

I hearken back to the recommendations by DOD, CIA and even State to President John Kennedy in the 1960s Cuba missile crisis to attack with nuclear weapons Cuba, when unknown to US, Russian forces there had permission to use nuclear weapons against the US should Cuba be attack. President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy together ignored the “nuclear war option” and choose, rightly, the negotiation option which saved mankind from mass obliteration. Is there any sign of this kind of  depth and serous thinking among the Trump gang?

Finally, I like senator Chris Murphy’s recent analysis of our Syria actions:

“As a theoretical matter, a targeted military strike in response to a major violation of non-conventional weapons norms is justifiable. Why have rules against chemical weapons use if no one is going to pay a price for violating the rules? International norms should be upheld by the international community–not the United States acting alone–but it’s hard to argue against Trump’s action last night when viewed in isolation as a response to Assad’s barbaric attack.

The problem is military strikes never happen in isolation–the before and after are arguably even more important than the strike itself. The actions Trump took leading up to Assad’s chemical weapons attack, as well as the all-important and totally unanswered question of what comes next, highlight the administration’s immoral and hypocritical approach to violence in the region.”

We welcome your Comments. See comment section well below the post.

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election.  But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.

As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.

Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.

American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.

US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened,  uncertain of our support, or  go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.

What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.

Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.

We welcome your comments!! See section below for your comments.

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY AN UNCLASSIFIED REPORT BY OBAMA. SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR
DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY UNCLASSIFIED REPORT  BY OBAMA WITH SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

By Harry C. Blaney III

Today President Obama was briefed on and received the intelligence community’s CLASSIFIED report of Russia’s hacking of Democratic officials and likely other US hacking activities especially aimed to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It is reported that the unclassified version will be released possibly Monday and Obama will brief our citizens on its content and its import and possibly US actions.

Already on Capital Hill hearings are taking place on this subject with the Republican Senate leadership adamantly opposing a separate investigation and bipartisan committee to look into the issue. In the hearings the intelligence heads today have made clear, on an unclassified basis, that Russia did the hacking and it was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election outcome and it was ordered by the highest levels of the Russian government.

The witnesses included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,  testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian cyberattacks or hacking during the 2016 election as well addressing the greater cyber threat Russia poses to the U.S.

There was concern about this action by both Republican and Democratic members. Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, brought up the Watergate scandal and cited the congressional investigation that followed. “It is my hope that this Congress is willing to stand in a bipartisan way…as the Congress did in 1974.” Kaine talked about how he was a victim of fake news during the election and criticized Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has promoted some of those stories.

On the Republican side Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Clapper if there’s a difference between espionage and Russian hacking. Clapper said that espionage “implies passive collection,” but the hacking is “activist.” Sen Graham said. “If we don’t throw rocks, we’re going to make a huge mistake.” “It’s time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks,” ….. “Putin’s up to no good; he’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people you can be skeptical, but you have to understand they’re the best among us.” When asked later, why we did not retaliate for espionage fully Clapper said “If we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When Clapper talked about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” against the U.S. He said, for example that RT, funded by the Russian government, was “very, vert active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.” Further, Clapper added that Russia used RT, social media, fake news. “They exercised all of those capabilities in addition to the hacking. The totality of that effort, not only as DNI, but as a citizen, is a grave concern.”

The exchange in the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing was clear as to who did the hacking and beyond with Director Clapper noting that “Hacking was only part of it,” he added told the panel that “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.”

The question before both Obama, and now soon, Donald Trump is what will be done about the action or any repeat of such activities? So far Trump and his team seem to throw doubt and disparagement upon the entire Russia hacking effort against the Democrats.

The question that needs to be asked and will be taken up next week by this blog, is what President Obama will say about what needs to be done and the import of these actions for American democracy, and not least, shortly a statement by Trump “after briefing on this issue by our intelligence people, our thoughts whether if Trump is protecting himself or our nation as president!

So far my judgement, contrary to some commentators like in the Washington Post today (“Could Trump be playing Russia?” by the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt), that it is Trump playing a game on Putin. My bet is the other way around by far, as the evidence shows Trump is ignorant of Russian realities, ignores facts, and seems to put “relations with Putin” and his own ego ahead of national interests and use of smart diplomacy including understanding the U.S. intelligence findings and its consequences.

We welcome your comments!

UKRAINE: AN UNNECESSARY AND DANGEROUS CONFLICT SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL

President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin

By Harry C. Blaney III

News reports have Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers coming through the Ukrainian border while NATO  reports that the Russians have unleashed rocket attacks from both inside Russia and Ukraine. Added to this are reports that Russian paratroopers were captured inside Ukrainian territory just at the moment when key talks in Minsk were attended by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and with representatives of other European countries.

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Drones and A “New Warfare”: Morals, Threats, Practicality, and Costs?

Drones Picture2There is a major on-going debate in America (and perhaps elsewhere) about the legality, morality, and the efficacy of the use of drones in warfare and targeted killings. This has been on-going for years, ever since the knowledge of drone attacks were made public before the Obama administration. After Obama came into office these attacks increased rather than diminished.

In this post I will not address the international legal issues, which needs another examination. But, there are major moral, strategic and practical issues that do need added exploration.

The first question is just why this means of “warfare” was developed and used and whether there are better and less problematic options.

The first assumption must be, in this case, that there is adequate and compelling reasons to take down active and dangerous terrorists and their networks that pose an imminent threat to Americans and our allies. That is the fundamental “rationale” of our policy simply put.

However, we must first acknowledge that the killing of innocent civilians has been a sad historic constant in almost all warfare in history, including our own times. Think of Japan’s brutal invasion and butchery of China in the 1930s, the widespread German killing of Jews and non-combatants in areas they invaded and occupied, the German bombing of London and the allied firebombing of Berlin and Dresden, the American atomic bombing of two cities in Japan and the even more destructive fire bombing of Tokyo. Think of the Serbian mass killing of civilians in Srebrenica, of Bosnian Muslims massacred in July 1995, or today the brutality of the Syrian civil war.

The second reason for the decision to use drones was their ability to observe, from an advantaged and largely unseen point, ground activities. They are also able to attack without putting in danger our own military personnel and are able to deliver a pinpoint destructive force. This is not an inconsiderable advantage over insertion of major “boots on the ground” where civilians would still be at risk or large scale airplane bomber attacks or even the use of long-medium-short range missiles that do not have interactive “sight” of the immediate target.

The other reality is that we are unlikely to abolish drones any more than we have been successful in abolishing nuclear or other WMD weapons. We have used drones, others are using them, and it is more likely they will become ubiquitous over time and will be used against us.  Even more destructive “war weapons” have been and are now in use and few efforts are being made to abolish them.

Reuters’ correspondent David Rohde not long ago wrote about the other side of the equation:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.” I largely agree with this assessment, but recognize it does not address what alternative better options are available that have less negative impact.

My view is that drones provide so many “advantages” to the using nation, that drones will be an element of warfare as are missiles, planes, and cyber warfare efforts. This is simply a statement of reality not an ethical judgment. But in making policy decisions this reality must be understood and evaluated.

But, we do need to look still at the moral and “efficacy” issues in their specific use and the context in which they are used. To be realistic we need to recognize that the key to this issue is to clearly and publicly define and regulate their use and to ask the question of alternatives and better options and their real efficacy, including “unintended consequences,” which frankly we have already seen in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the moral dimension, the key question is frankly not “taking out terrorists,” no nation can just stand down if there are individuals or groups that aim to do what happened in 9/11 or to attack our troops or civilians. So, the question is when and how and especially can one eliminate or diminish civilian casualties.  One criteria the new “ground rules” contain is whether alternative means are more dangerous to our people or are basically infeasible.

One major problem of the use of drones, and frankly, any kind of kinetic warfare on the ground, is the “blowback,” i.e. the likelihood when civilians are also killed, that there is a creation of further terrorists and the continued cycle of unending conflict such acts engender.

We already have a policy of minimizing civilian casualties built into our existing requirements for determining an attack. They do not always work due to mistakes in intelligence and judgment, which will likely never be fully eliminated. There is a concept called the “fog of war,” which inherently is a fundamental element of most elements of warfare.  But, frankly decisions are also made based on the importance of the “target” and what is termed the rarity of an “opportunity.”

So, what is the key to looking at “drones,” or to be more precise and focused, how do we develop a smart strategy that can both reduce the dangers of terrorism and conflicts and thus the use of drones and indeed other large scale weapons of even greater destruction – a policy of preventive actions, that are pro-active to the undermining causes of conflict and terrorism.

With all of these realities and constraints and military objectives, the key question is what can be done to minimize terrorism, the use of lethal military force, and the societal dysfunction which breeds hatreds, despair, and terrorist motivation?

First, as I have implied, the “drone debate” has been too narrow and our “moral” perspective needs a wider context.  We need to approach the present strategic terrorist threat or indeed conflict syndrome, in a longer range and preemptive approach.

Second, we need new “tools” that are more efficacious and discreet. That also means we need to know more about the causes and realities of those who feel they are most aggrieved and most marginalized. Poverty is clearly one element that the global community has still not seriously addressed. Another is the development of religious or ideological ideology that puts force and indifference to human suffering at the center of its strategy and belief.  One simple fact is mass unemployment and the despair created provides no path towards upward mobility and political participation.  The other element is the existence of authoritarian rule, which does not respond to broad basic citizen needs. The problem is that there is no broad citizen and political “constituency” for this kind of civilian diplomatic “nation building.” It is easier to get funding for drones and largely useless fighter and bomber planes than for educational projects or job creating programs in failing and at-risk nations.

In short, we need a more careful assessment of the use of force generally and unintended consequences, but even more of looking at how to create programs that both support human rights, democratic norms, and not least economic development that reaches deep to those most in need and disaffected elements in at-risk states and regions. Getting there early, understanding the change forcing trends and events, and the perspective of the affected citizens and leaders and then designing effective intervention modalities and recognizing the long term nature of the task at hand.  Also, tools of public diplomacy, peacemaking, strong international intervention in disputes and unrest when needed, and above all a global consensus towards strong humanitarian program capabilities and on the ground intervention when possible.

Drones, in short, are more a result of a dysfunctional and high risk world, they are not the cause. We need to control their use better, but also look beyond.

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!